This past year was the worst for movie and TV soundtrack albums since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. Not one soundtrack sold even 400,000 copies during the year, which is less than half of the previous low. The best-selling soundtrack of 2011 was from Lemonade Mouth (a Disney Channel movie), which sold 379,000 copies during the year. The best-selling soundtrack from a theatrically-released movie was The Twilight Series: Breaking Dawn—Part One, which sold 368K copies.
This is the fourth time in the past six years that the year's top soundtrack was from a TV show rather than a theatrically-released movie. This is the second year in a row that a Twilight soundtrack has been the year's top-selling soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse took that title in 2010.
This is only the third time since 1992 that no soundtrack has sold 1 million copies during the year. This first happened in 2004 when the year's top soundtrack, Shrek 2, sold 939K. It also happened in 2010, when Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album sold 917K copies.
Soundtrack sales peaked in 1998 when Titanic sold a staggering 9,338,000 copies during the year. The Bodyguard and The Lion King also sold more than 4 million copies each during their peak years.
Here's a list of the best-selling soundtracks for each year from 1992 (the first full year of Nielsen SoundScan accounting) through 2011. For years in which a TV soundtrack came out on top, I also show the year's top-selling soundtrack from a theatrically-released movie. (That's for you purists who don't quite consider the Glee Christmas album to be a "soundtrack.") The sales tally right after the title is the number of copies the soundtrack sold in that calendar year. The "Overall ranking" at the end of the paragraph refers to the soundtrack's ranking among all of that year's albums.
1992: Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard, 3,835,000. The soundtrack sold that many copies in just six weeks, thanks to Houston's power ballad, "I Will Always Love You." The smash topped the Hot 100 for 14 weeks and went on to win a Grammy as Record of the Year. Houston starred in the movie with Kevin Costner. Overall ranking: #3.
1993: Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard, 5,460,000. The soundtrack sold even more copies the following year thanks to the continuing success of "I Will Always Love You" and Houston's follow-up hits, notably "I'm Every Woman" and "I Have Nothing." In March 1994, the soundtrack won a Grammy as Album of the Year. Overall ranking: #1.
1994: The Lion King, 4,934,000. The soundtrack rode the success of Elton John's top 20 hits "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" and "Circle Of Life." Elton composed the music for the animated movie. Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" won an Oscar. Overall ranking: #1.
1995: Dangerous Minds, 2,608,000. "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio featuring L.V. was the #1 smash from this soundtrack. The song was based on hidden gem on Stevie Wonder's 1976 masterwork, Songs In The Key Of Life. Overall ranking: #11.
1996: Waiting To Exhale, 2,550,000. Whitney Houston co-starred in this chick flick and contributed two top 10 hits to the all-female soundtrack: "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" and "Count On Me" (a duet with CeCe Winans). Other hits on the soundtrack include Mary J. Blige's "Not Gon' Cry" and Brandy's "Sittin' Up In My Room." Overall ranking: #12.
1997: Space Jam, 2,986,000. R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" was the album's monster hit. It logged four weeks at #2. The album yielded two other top 10 hits: Monica's "For You I Will" and Seal's version of Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like An Eagle." Overall ranking: #9.
1998: Titanic, 9,338,000. Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From 'Titanic')" was the #1 hit that powered this blockbuster album. Dion's chest-thumping smash won a Grammy as Record of the Year. The song won both a Grammy as Song of the Year and an Oscar. Overall ranking: #1.
1999: Tarzan, 1,497,000. Phil Collins' "You'll Be In My Heart" reached #21 on the Hot 100 and won an Oscar. Overall ranking: #49.
2000: Mission: Impossible 2, 1,344,000. Metallica's "I Disappear" and Limp Bizkit's "Take A Look Around (Theme From "M:I-2")" were the key tracks from this album. The first Mission: Impossible soundtrack was a hit in 1996. The TV show on which the franchise was based debuted in 1966. Overall ranking: #56.
2001: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, 3,461,000. This soundtrack didn't produce any Hot 100 hits, though Soggy Bottom Boys' "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" became a top 40 country hit. T Bone Burnett produced the album, which in February 2002 won a Grammy as Album of the Year. Overall ranking: #9.
2002: 8 Mile: 3,498,000. Eminem starred in the movie and contributed four songs to the soundtrack. One of those songs, the anthemic "Lose Yourself," logged 12 weeks at #1 and won an Oscar. 50 Cent's "Wanksta" also made the top 20. Overall ranking: #5.
2003: Chicago, 1,922,000. This soundtrack didn't produce any Hot 100 hits. The movie won an Oscar as Best Picture. The Broadway musical on which the movie was based opened in 1975. Overall ranking: #17.
2004: Shrek 2, 939,000. Counting Crows' "Accidentally In Love" was a top 40 hit from this soundtrack. The album also included Lipps, Inc.'s 1980 smash "Funkytown." The first Shrek soundtrack was a hit in 2001. Overall ranking: #74.
2005: Get Rich Or Die Tryin', 1,103,000. 50 Cent starred in this movie which was based on his 2003 album. He also contributed three Hot 100 hits: "Window Shopper," "Hustler's Ambition" and "Best Friend" (which reunited him with his "Candy Shop" cohort, Olivia). Overall ranking: #42.
2006: High School Musical, 3,719,000. "Breaking Free" by Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens was a top 10 hit from this soundtrack to the Disney Channel movie. Overall ranking: #1. Curious George by Jack Johnson & Friends was the year's top soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie. It sold 1,134,000 copies. It spawned the top 40 hit "Upside Down." Overall ranking: #42.
2007: High School Musical 2, 2,957,000. The cast's "What Time Is It" was a top 10 hit from this soundtrack to the Disney Channel sequel. Overall ranking: #2. Hairspray was the year's top soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie. It sold 922,000 copies. The Broadway show on which the musical was based opened in 2002. Overall ranking: 45.
2008: Mamma Mia!, 1,406,000. Meryl Streep starred in this trifle which is built around Abba's irresistable music. The movie was based on the stage musical which opened in 2001. Overall ranking: #12.
2009: Hannah Montana: The Movie, 1,823,000. Miley Cyrus starred in this theatrically-released movie based on her Disney Channel TV series (which debuted in 2006). She also contributed 12 tracks to the album, including the top 20 hits "The Climb" and "Hoedown Throwdown." Taylor Swift's "Crazier" also hit the top 20. Overall ranking: #6.
2010: Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album, 917,000. The cast's versions of "O Holy Night," "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and Wham!'s "Last Christmas" were Hot 100 hits. The TV show debuted on Fox in 2009. Overall ranking: #16. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was the year's top soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie. It sold 517,000 copies. Muse's "Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)" was a Hot 100 hit from the album. Overall ranking: #48.
2011: Lemonade Mouth, 379,000. The biggest hit from the album was "Determinate" by Bridgit Mendler featuring Adam Hicks, which reached #51 on the Hot 100. Overall ranking #68. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part One was the year's top soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie. It sold 368,000 copies. The biggest hit from the Twilight album is Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain," which has climbed as high as #3. Overall ranking: #71.